Volume III, No. XI November 2018
Table of Contents
Industry Trends and Analysis: (pg. 3)
Patee Sarasin, former CEO of Nok Air:
"Unlocking the Riches of In-flight Wi-Fi" (pg. 4)
David Bruner, former V.P. Panasonic Avionics:
"Buckle Up! :Turbulence Ahead in Airline Connectivity Markets"
"The Promise of the New Iridium and Aireon Services: Big Advancements in Air Traffic Management on the Horizon" (pg. 26)
Ernst Peter Hovinga, CEO Hiber: "Disrupting the Satellite IoT Connectivity Market: The Promise of Hiber" (p.31)
"Upcoming and Recommended Satellite Mobility Events"
Independent Analysis and Commentary on Maritime, Aero and Land-based Satellite Technologies
In This Issue...
"Besieged by Doubt and CEO Turnover, Can OneWeb Survive?
"Building Carnival's New, Just-Like-Home, Internet Service"
With Carnival's V.P. of Global Connectivity, Reza Rasoulian "Breakthrough Solution for Big Data Transfer via CubeSats"
An Interview with Kepler Communications CEO, Mina Mitry
"Tom Choi's New Road for the "Last Mile"
A look at Curvalux, a New Backbone and Access Technology
More NewSpace Inside!
Satellite mobility World
With Carnival's V.P. of Global Connectivity, Reza Rasoulian
If you're headed for a cruise, you're going to find that the onboard Internet experience has changed a lot. Just a few short years ago, you paid $.50 per/minute or more for creeping, crawling Internet. You paid, and you logged on and you waited and you waited, while all the time the meter was running. If you remember the days of 2,000 baud modems, service was like that. All you could do was dash off a few short e-mails, and that's was about it. Now it's a lot different, especially on Carnival. There, the cruise ship Internet experience is high speed, making communication an integral part of the cruise experience.
It's almost like home. While the satellite infrastructure and bandwidth are still expensive, you can now log on to social media, surf the Web and soon, you may be able to watch streaming video - all at speeds and pricing that make communication a pleasure. To find out how Carnival has achieved this remarkable technological feat - delivering near land like Internet performance miles from shore, we interviewed Reza Rasoulian, V.P. of Global Connectivity for Carnival cruises, the world's largest cruise vacation company.
SMW: During the last few years, there have been tremendous advancements in the quality and speed of Internet connectivity aboard Carnival vessels. Can you compare what connectivity was like in terms of speed, cost and pricing plans and passenger satisfaction five years ago vs. today and how you see it evolving five years into the future?
Reza Rasoulian: Thanks Alan, yes, there have been some significant advancements in cruise connectivity as a result of Carnival’s efforts in this space. We have been able to drastically improve the speeds, reliability, and pervasiveness of our Wi-Fi solution. As a result, we now have the ability to deploy this solution to exceed our guest expectations which was one of the key goals we set out to achieve in the connectivity space.
Five years ago, cruise connectivity left a lot to be desired. While many ships had a decent experience, others had significant challenges providing a good Wi-Fi experience. Pricing was almost entirely minute based across the industry which led to dissatisfaction especially at the slow speeds previously available.
One of the early innovations Carnival initiated across many brands were our social media and voyage length plans - launched in late 2015. When they were deployed, we had significant success and improvement in our guests’ satisfaction in that Internet access was no longer metered, but instead was available in a variety of plans and sold on a daily basis or for the entire cruise. Passengers could choose a very inexpensive social media plan, a plan that allows basic web surfing or a high-speed plan suitable for more demanding connectivity and services such as Skype and Facetime.
Now, with our NextGen programs that were initially deployed in late 2017 and early 2018 on several ships, we further enhanced the capability by increasing speeds, reliability, and availability.
Our plan is to deploy this solution across the entire Carnival Cruise Line Fleet over the next few years. With many of the enhancements to be rolled out fleet wide over the next 12 months which will drastically improve our guest connectivity experience.
In the next five years I see consumer demand continuing to elevate. New applications will become available and guests and crew expectations will continue to rise. I believe we will continue to see a growth in bandwidth needs, and multi-device plans will become more apparent in mobility connectivity.
Five years ago, a typical cruise ship might employ a 5-10 Mbps link. Today, we are looking at over 100 Mbps, and I think we could reach a situation where many ships operate at Gigabit speeds in the near future.
SMW: Do you see think the amount of bandwidth you are purchasing will continue to increase year after year or do you foresee a level of capacity where demand will level off? What might that level be in terms of Mbps?
RR: We believe the data shows that demand will continue to increase for the foreseeable future. While we cannot know for sure what the future holds, we do have a good indicator based on historical consumption and growth rates, both within our users and the broader industry.
However, there is some variability in predicting how users will leverage connectivity in the future. As with the overall consumption, we do have historical data to model future use but given the innovations in mobile devices and the applications that run on them, nobody can say for sure.
There may come a point where the bandwidth per user levels off but as we improve our service we expect to see our take rate continue to rise, driving the overall demand higher and requiring Carnival to continue to add and optimize the delivery of bandwidth.
SMW: In terms of usage, how have passenger usage patterns changed? What are passengers doing with the connectivity?
RR: Certainly, we’ve seen changes in consumption as applications demand more bandwidth and users stay on-line longer. We’re also seeing more multi-device use, but the biggest driver is video, and the way social media applications use video, automatically playing videos for instance.
We’re also seeing more users needing to stay connected for business purposes even if it is only to check in from time to time to see what is happening in the office. Having great connectivity enables them to take an amazing cruise vacation but still be able to interact with the office or manage their small business if they need to.
And finally, the Internet of Things is having a big impact. The number of connected devices continues to increase, as do the capabilities of those devices.
We are obtaining more and more telemetry from our business operations, technical operations, and systems operations that we are turning into actionable events which help in creating positive outcomes both from a guest experience perspective, as well as a business and ROI perspective.
For example, five years ago we had around 1000 connected devices and now have far in excess of that.
SMW: How has the connectivity infrastructure evolved to meet demand and can you describe how the infrastructure has evolved in detail i.e. frequencies and antennas deployed, use of DVBS2X, modem technology, use of channel bonding and speed enhancement technologies such as Xiplink?
RR: We have worked hard to better understand our user’s needs and have committed to exceeding their expectations through continuous improvement and innovation in the connectivity space.
We created a connectivity discipline within the company designed to push the industry to deliver what we need. For example, Carnival partnered with Intellian to design and deliver the world’s first smart Tri-band antenna to increase stability and utilize the best bandwidth frequency in any given situation.
We have also worked closely with Xiplink and use a majority of the features they offer including acceleration, compression and caching.
In addition, partnering with modem and optimization providers such as Comtech, iDirect and other technology providers has allowed us to develop solutions to continue to deliver the amount of bandwidth we need without requiring costly and time-consuming hardware upgrades. There is also a proprietary element in our connectivity solution which is effectively our “secret sauce” that enables us to fully leverage, distribute, and consume bandwidth—this system working in unison creates the land-like experience the industry has been working to achieve for many years. It’s not just about bandwidth, but the overall system that delivers the connectivity experience.
So, working with multiple industry partners in this way, we develop solutions to meet and advance our vision. We expect these efforts to yield continued success in mobility connectivity delivery.
This proactive approach has resulted in some really creative solutions to problems that have long impacted connectivity performance in the cruise market and other broadband VSAT markets.
In fact, many of these solutions have not just moved connectivity forward at Carnival. They have moved performance forward in maritime, Oil and Gas and other markets.
SMW: I understand that the Intellian Tri-Band antenna is rather unique. Can you tell is more about it?
RR: One of the key requirements that we had was to get an intelligent antenna system that would mitigate blockage, be frequency agnostic, and also would enable us to ingest bandwidth from multiple satellite operators. That was the goal and the primary reason we elected to put in multi-band technology across all brands three years ago.
Previously, we had single band antennas on these ships and we suffered a lot because we would get into blockage situations or the needs changed on networks as demand increased. So, the new Tri Band, Intellian antennas give us the capability to connect to any satellite, regardless of operator, on any relevant commercial frequency band resulting in huge redundancy and capacity. That's six possible transmission paths with two antennas, nine with three, and so on.
Although not the only element in our connectivity design, the antenna system capability is a key element - along with the modems, optimization, Wi-Fi, etc. - that enables us to deliver a vastly superior, land-like user experience. A year or two ago, we did not have this unique technological capability.
Now, we can leverage the best satellite (and satellite operator) at the right time to meet our guest needs. Some ships have four or five antennas which could all be pointed at different satellites thereby allowing us access all of that bandwidth and do it in a smart way, so as to minimize any interruption to our guests. This adds redundancy, resiliency, and fault tolerance. Elements we did not have with single band antenna systems.
Speedcast has also been a great partner as our managed service provider, enabling us to leverage the best capacity on any satellite operator via our end-to-end connectivity approach. This gives us the ability to maximize the available bandwidth for our global fleet.
So, we mitigate weather events, do least cost routing, and everywhere we operate, we are able to get enough bandwidth because we can access any satellite regardless of operator .
SMW: I understand that in addition to having significantly enhanced the speed and quality of connectivity, you have some unique monitoring tools to assure passengers consistently high quality connectivity. Could you tell us more about what you are doing in this area?
RR: Using Splunk software and our own proprietary monitoring, remediation and analytics platform, we are able to proactively address individual users' issues and in many cases predict problems before they occur or re mediate issues before they negatively affect the customer experience. This is a huge step forward.
Prior to the establishment of this capability, we would not be able to act until guests, crew or leadership complained. Now, we know beforehand hand what is causing the issue and we can take actions, early on, to correct a problem, whether it is a satellite, Wi-Fi or customer equipment issue.
SMW: Can you elaborate more on how you are using Xiplink to improve network performance?
RR: We’re always trying to get the most out of our efforts so we invest a lot of time in network optimization. Whether it’s bonding, balancing or acceleration, we’re always looking at ways to get more out of our connectivity infrastructure.
Xiplink has been a great partner in pushing the limits with us and we continue to partner closely to continue our optimization process. In the connectivity space, it’s not a “one and done” approach, rather, an iterative, inventive yet pragmatic approach to ensuring we exceed our guest expectations. Our optimization solution is multi-tiered optimization strategy that enables the enhanced guest experience there Xiplink is a part of the overall optimization stack.
SMW: Other than purchasing more bandwidth, are their other techniques for improving on board Internet performance?
RR: There are so many factors that make up a world class connectivity experience that there is always something we could be doing. The number of users on-line, geographic location, satellite network performance, wireless signal strength, even the battery level on a user’s device factors into performance.
Of course, we look at what will provide the best experience to the greatest number of users but even that can change from minute to minute. Essentially, we have over 100+ floating cities across the Carnival brands and each one unique with its own set of challenges that are constantly changing.
SMW: What about LEOs? Are the lower latencies possible with these constellations sufficient incentive to move away from GEO services – assuming competitive price per Megabit?
RR: We are closely monitoring all of the activity in the NGSO space and we feel that continued work in this space and the availability of alternate forms of bandwidth will only benefit our guests and team members. We are optimistic that many of the systems being developed will help us achieve even more connectivity success, but we are still a few years away from available solutions as a number of companies are working hard to execute their vision and designs.
However, we have also been able to achieve great performance with MEO and GEO satellites, on a global basis, regardless of our itineraries.
SMW: We talked about passenger demand for connectivity. What about corporate use? How has improved connectivity compliment business operations? Can you give us some examples?
RR: Certainly, onboard corporate users are more productive with the increased speeds and connectivity we have deployed. There are many more benefits to improved connectivity. We have safety and security systems that require real-time data, regulatory compliance documents that must be sent and shore-side users that must connect to the ships to deploy updates or provide support.
Our onboard hotel management systems now can interact in a more real time basis to shore-side systems to further enhance our guest experience by enabling us to be more proactive in the care we provide our guests and team members. We also see a significant shift to cloud-based applications therefore one of the key elements of our connectivity implementation is to ensure a “cloud-ready” state.
SMW: It been my understanding that one of the major reasons to invest so much in improving passenger connectivity was to compete favorably with the services offered by land-based resorts and thereby satisfy the Millennials and other demographic groups who are essentially wedded to always-on connectivity. Do you feel you have achieved that goal?
RR: Absolutely. As we deploy this connectivity solution, Carnival will be in a great position to to provide our guests with a content rich and immersive experience. Streaming video, chat, text, Skype social media access or Web surfing - services that either never existed or were very challenging before on a cruise vacation. Our goal is to exceed our guest expectations by providing amazing vacation experiences, and connectivity is a part of the experience for many of our guests.
SMW: Thank you Reza. I look forward to trying out your Internet service on my next Carnival cruise.
Building Carnival's New, Just-Like-Home, Internet Service
Carnival Horizon's massive VSAT Installation
"Five years ago we had single band antennas on these ships and we suffered a lot because we would get into blockage situations or the need change networks as demand increased. So, the new Tri Band, Intellian antennas give us the capability to connect to any satellite, regardless of operator, on any frequency band resulting in huge redundancy... That antenna capability is a key element - along with the modems, optimization and Wi-Fi - that enables us to deliver a vastly superior, land-like user experience."
Carnival-Speedcast 3. 2 Gbps Demo
About Reza Rasoulian
Reza Rasoulian is the Vice President of Global Connectivity at Carnival. His responsibility includes the leadership of the connectivity design, development, deployment, and operation for the largest cruise company in the world with over 103 ships, and over 12 Million guests per year. Carnival brands include AIDA, Carnival Cruise Line, Costa, Cunard, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, P&O Cruises Australia, P&O Cruises UK, Seabourn, and fathom. With 22+ years of experience, Rasoulian previously led the implementation and launch of highly reliable mobile and high throughput satellite systems at Hughes Network Systems and Comtech EF Data.